What I Wanted but Never Had in the Classroom


My name is Kate, and I recently graduated from college. Since then, I’ve been working for Virtual Village Classroom; our founder is Darren Butler, a published children’s author and, in my opinion, a writer extraordinaire. Mr. Butler visited my classes when I was younger and gave us writing instruction. I loved his visits, and could visibly see my writing skills improve. However, when he left the classroom, I saw one skill dwindle, year by year. That was my reading comprehension.

The problem with my public school education was my teachers’ discomfort with teaching writing and furthermore, helping my understanding of content across the curriculum. I was always the English student- never the rocket scientist, and always the algebra failure. Don’t get me wrong, I made good grades in school. The greatest obstacle I faced, however, was that nobody understood how to engrain basic comprehension in my mind. I was as guilty as every other student in America of skimming and scanning texts to pass a quiz. I never understood how to prepare myself for tests of my knowledge, while my worksheet skills sufficed.

Instead of solving the problem, my teachers ignored it. They were guilty of placing me in the same box we are all eventually sorted to. Educators for years told me, “So what if you make a B in biology? You can write a mean essay and give a fantastic speech. Stick to what you know.” This mentality is counterproductive to the mission of education. I am what Dr. Carol Dweck refers to as a person with a “growth mindset.” I believe in constant learning through cultivating my own efforts. I never did well to “stick with what I know,” nor will any dedicated student. Do we each have unique strengths? Absolutely. However, because we work to further develop our innate abilities does not restrict our potential to learn cross-curricular material. The fact my teachers never understood was that reading is only half the equation- they could have used my writing potential to better train lessons in science, math, and social studies. This is why I am forever grateful to Mr. Butler for developing a piece of his product (Weekly Writer) to focus on those comprehension skills. This piece is called RIP & Write.

RIP stands for “Read, Interpret, Predict.” Through this method, Mr. Butler has students read small portions of a text, then stop and ask themselves vital questions to interpret what they’ve read, and predict what is coming next. In subjects such as math and science, students face word problems, and answer open-ended questions with full sentences. This encourages higher order thinking skills students such as myself never adopted. Students are often asked:

  1. What problem is the passage wanting to solve?
  2. Is there any unnecessary information given to solve the problem?
  3. Is there any information not given that is needed to solve the problem?

I don’t know about other public school students, but in my education, these questions were first asked when I took the ACT. The ACT determined how much money I would receive to attend college, and yet, no educator had prepared me for the simple format of the test. I was never tested in timed writing. Nor was I taught that the golden rule of assessments was simply learning how to take the test, regardless of the topics/skills covered. There will always be holes in our education system. After all, educators should never be expected to master each individual subject.

That being said, I stand before you as a student who excelled in school and perceives my own failures as detrimental to my growth as an adult. How many children are we failing by not taking the time to develop better learning strategies for struggling students? If I’d had Weekly Writer in my life as a child, I would have easily earned $5,000 more to attend college, annually. When one considers how many students would be thrilled just to see an initial $500, don’t we owe it to them to guide them in the right direction? The stakes are too high not to learn more about this program, and see how it might benefit your students. Call us at 888-696-1119 to learn more, or visit our website at Our goal for you is to see you become a hero in your classroom. What can we do to help?

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